Senior forward Williams works toward NBA aspirations

Central Michigan senior forward Cecil Williams poses for a portrait before practice on Jan. 25 at the practice court.

Senior forward Cecil Williams put his name in for the 2017 NBA Draft following Central Michigan’s 2016-17 season. But, not to play professionally. 

Williams wanted to receive feedback from NBA scouts. 

“The feedback that I got was they really liked his athleticism and his physical attributes,” CMU head coach Keno Davis said. “The scouts liked his overall game. He’s not a finished product yet and is still raw in a lot of areas. If he continues to work, he’s going to have an opportunity to continue basketball.”

The coaches helping Williams get to the next level are assistants Kevin Gamble and Kyle Gerdeman. 

“Gamble and Gerdeman help keep my head level, be aggressive and stay positive even though we’ve been losing lately,” Williams said. “I just have to keep being aggressive with my shot and take the open ones.”

As for his chances at playing professionally, Williams said “it’s going to happen” following his time as a Chippewa. 

“There is a really good (chance) of playing professionally whether it’s in the states or overseas,” Williams said. “(The scouts) just wanted me to be more aggressive in everything I do to build off last year.”

The one aspect Williams is still working on improving is his percentage from the 3-point line, which scouts claimed he needed to work on in order to be effective at the next level. Williams is shooting 18.2 percent from downtown, making just 6-of-33 triples. 

Davis, who has been CMU’s head coach since 2012, believes Williams’ path to the NBA could be like Gamble, who played for his Davis’ father in college at Iowa. 

In spite of being picked in the 1987 NBA Draft, Gamble played in the Continental Basketball Association for the Quad City Thunder and for the Philippines before making his NBA debut for the Boston Celtics in December 1988. 

“Guys like Cecil are going to have an opportunity to continue basketball,” Davis said. “He’s progressed as a player throughout this year. He’s still trying to improve and find a way to help the team win.

“He’s a guy who can lead you in rebounding, assists, and scoring. When you can do that, there’s a place for you in professional basketball.”

In order to play in the United States or overseas, Williams has worked hard during the offseason and throughout the 2017-18 campaign for the Chippewas. The senior’s biggest improvement is the ability to find his spot on the court and execute. 

“I’ve been picking my spots (better),” Williams said. “My mid-range game has really improved. I know what moves I want to make this year instead of just putting my head down and driving. Having the ball in my hands more has helped me provide for my teammates more.”   

Davis said the most impressive aspect of Williams is his desire for the team to win, which is uncommon for many college athletes with a chance to play professional sports. 

“As much as he has individual goals, he wants his team to be successful first and foremost,” Davis said. “That’s something I really appreciate. We’re going to try to get them where they want to go after CMU, but we want to keep the focus the same.”

This season, Williams averages 14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He poured in a season-high 23 points in a five-point loss to Eastern Michigan on Jan. 9.